Using a Compound Bow… Tips & Tricks to Get You Going

When using your compound bow for the first time you’ll need to set it up by attaching the rest, installing a D-loop and a peep sight and attaching a bow sight. There are other things you need to be familiar with like your bow’s draw weight, good release techniques and safety. 

They are a fabulous piece of equipment and owning one marks the start of fun and outdoor adventure. The reason you purchased a compound bow is somewhat irrelevant though because there’s a common goal shared by all archers… 

Hit what you aim for.

The more time you invest in archery the more you’ll understand the complexity of this bow and the importance of fine tuning it in order to get results that are consistent and reliable. 

Before Shooting Your New Compound Bow

If you buy a new bow you will need to educate yourself so you’re able set everything up.

Set-up includes ~

  • Attaching the rest
  • Installing your D-loop
  • Installing your peep sight
  • Attaching your bow sight 

The primary thing that will require adjusting by yourself, or with the assistance of a friend, are the sights, so set yourself a goal of doing that first.

Ideal Compound Bow Draw Weights

You can adjust the draw weight of a compound bow yourself. Draw weight (or poundage) is the force required to pull the bow string back to the full draw position.

Make sure you check your state’s archery rules if you purchased your bow for hunting as some have a minimum poundage that must be used.

The draw weight on the vast majority of bows is adjustable. 

When you become more experienced and your body is building muscle strength, you’ll be able to increase the poundage on your bow, this will increase the difficulty level for shooting but the upside is your arrows will fly further with a much flatter trajectory.

Body Type and Suggested Draw Weight

  • Small child between 40 and 70 lbs – 10 to 15 lbs draw weight
  • Child between 70 and 100 lbs – 15 to 20 lbs draw weight
  • Women and large-framed boys between 100 and 140 lbs – 30 to 40 lbs draw weight
  • Women with a larger frame & youth boys between 140 and 160 lbs – 40 to 50 lbs draw weight
  • The majority of males between 160 and 190 lbs – 55 to 65 lbs draw weight
  • Larger males 190 lbs. and over – 60 to 70 lbs draw weight

Compound Bow Release Technique

It takes a lot of time and practice to successfully fine-tune your bow and increase your skill level. The pay-off is your archery will be become consistently better through learning correct procedures, an archery release is one of the better options for achieving more consistent results.

This accessory attaches to the D-loop on your bow string. It has metal jaws and a release trigger that opens them in such a consistent way that the arrows follow the same path every shot. It’s hip to you to aim correctly.

Is Archery Dangerous?

Is archery dangerous, short answer is YES it certainly can be!

In archery, safety takes priority, however it doesn’t have to be if you follow basic logic and these simple rules.

When you’re outdoors, have a good ‘listen & look’ around to ensure that there’s no one or anything important around that could be hit with a wild shot. 

This exercise is basically Archery Safety 101.

Also, if the D-loop happens to snap, your arrow could fly high or way off in any direction. Take no chances of injuring anyone else or yourself.

In order to promote safety, ensure your target is of reasonable quality and in good condition.

Choose where you’re going to shoot wisely and make sure it’s suitable for what you are doing. Use bales of hay or the like and position them securely behind the target to stop wayward arrows. Just ensure that they’re wider and higher than your target.

The Steps to Your First Shot

Knocking Your Arrow 

The key to setting up your initial shot is to ‘nock’ your arrow and… never ever dry fire your bow. 

Dry firing means pulling to full draw and releasing the string with no arrow. Bows can and will break if you dry fire at full draw, always nock your arrow and save yourself money and heartache.

Points of Contact 

When you’re ready to fire, your arrow needs to be touching the bow in two places. The tip (head) of your arrow needs to be sitting on the rest and the nock needs to be clipped onto the string between the D loop knots. Secure the release on your dominant wrist and place yourself 10 yards away from the target.  

Fully Draw Your Bow

Next, the release needs to be clamped around the D-loop then pull the bow into a full draw. 

Your arm that’s holding the bow will be facing the target, elbow locked and your dominant hand should now be grazing your cheek. Be sure you don’t clamp the spring. 

At first, the string will be quite difficult to pull back, fortunately, the difficulty level decreases significantly when  your bow is at full draw.

This is one of the unique perks the compound bow has to offer.

Find Your Anchor 

Your next job is to place your hand with the release on your cheek or jaw, this results in an anchor or kisser point. 

Generally, at this point, your string will touching the tip of your nose which provides extra anchor point. Moving your hand around, try and see out of your peep sight while pressing it up against your face. 

Compound Bow Peep Sights

You now should be in a position to see the peep sight. This sight is a small hole in your string, and the whole sight should be visible through the centre of it.

It can be tricky to locate and you may find this process takes some time to get right. You can move your anchor points if you’re experiencing difficulty.

Pull the Trigger 

When your sights become visible in the center, line the top pin on your target and release the trigger. Retain your after shot stance until you have hit the target, if you drop your arm too early your arrow drift off and possibly not even hit the target.

Re-Adjust Your Pin 

If your shot hits where you aimed it move back to the 20 yard position. If it doesn’t, further adjust the pin. 

If your arrow hits above the bullseye this means your pin needs to be moved up. This action is referred to as “follow your arrow”. To you, this may seem to be against the rules, but it isn’t.

If your shot went low, your pin needs to be lowered. This is the same for shots that veer right or left. Over 20 yards the top pin must be spot on. 

Next you need to move further backwards so, at 30 yards, the next pin needs to be spot on. Keep repeating this exercise until you have used the final pin.  

Eliminate Those Archery Deviations 

Your bow is in tune, you’re punishing the bullseye, and you are ‘on song’.

To get yourself to this level takes years to achieve. Top archers may still experience inconsistent shooting at times. If and when this happens to you we strongly suggest revisiting this page, reading through it until you identify where you’ve gone wrong, and correcting it.

Archery Fatigue 

Fatigue can play a part in archery and can set in over a relatively short time, I’m talking 30 minutes depending on your fitness level. The problem is you may not even be aware of it.

This situation can result in trying to shoot too quickly, your body compensating for the fatigue or taking too long to have your shot. It makes sense that the latter is responsible for more inconsistency than a rapid shot. 

Unreasonable Goals 

One of the most difficult things for an archer to get his head around is what is deemed a terrific shot and what is not. 

The answer is… it depends entirely on how far away you are from the target. 

If there’s a bottle top lid on the target and you’re firing from 10 yards away, you shot would really need to be no more than one inch away from the bullseye, in any direction. 

  • At 20 yards you should be within 2 inches 
  • At 50 yards you should be within 5 inches
  • At 80 yards you should be within 8 inches

To assist you to estimate the spread of your shots, it’s suggested that you use ~

  • A paper cup stuck to the target for 20 and 30 yards
  • A paper bowl for 50 yards
  • A paper plate for 80 yards. 

Dropping Your Arm 

After someone shoots, it’s a regular thing to see their arm drop in order to watch where their arrow is heading. A bad habit such as this confirms the importance of ‘holding your finish’. 

Some archers will find it a task to drop their arm even after many years of being involved with archery. 


Another significant issue for many very experienced archers is flinching.

Flinching happens as you jerk just as you pull the trigger, fortunately it becomes less of a problem the longer you shoot.

One option to stop is to softly squeeze the trigger and not squeeze it rapidly.

A second option seems odd however it does work. Whilst at the 20 yard mark from the target and you have lined up, have a friend pull the trigger and not telling you before they pull it. 

It will surprise when the bow fires but you won’t flinch. After repeating this a number of times your flinching will not be as noticeable.

Cheap Compound Bow 

A cheap compound bow usually means that the manufacturer has not invested enough time or money in design.

This situation will become apparent over time and one of the most common issues with such a bow is the backstop is lacking.

It’s simple, if a bow does not have a backstop to lever against, your consistency will plunge to new depths.

Peep Sight and Sights Not Lined Up and Level 

The next common problem is failing to line-up the peep sight with the sights correctly.

Your sights must be exactly centered in the peep sight. If they’re not, inconsistencies will creep in. Also, some brands of sights come complete with a leveler bubble. It’s critical that, each and every time you shoot, you ensure this is level. 

Even if there’s the smallest angle, the shot won’ be a good one.  

Moving Your Face to Fit 

Adjusting the position of your face to suit the anchor points instead of getting it just right first up can result in another issue, and it can be a big one for newbies. 

Usually a beginner archer will position their hand on their cheek then shift their face into the anchor points. Try this instead, have your face in the correct position before you position your hand onto your cheek. 

Try to Practice this action as much as you can until you get it right. 

Holding Your Bow Too Tight 

Believe it or not inconsistency can also be as a result of you holding your bow too tightly. When you reach full draw, relax your fingers slightly. They should be holding your bow but not holding onto your bow. If your fingers are holding onto your bow, it may twist and result in a problem for you. 

Problem with Your Bow 

If you have spent a long time doing archery but still unable to discover why your inconsistency has not reduced, feel free to take your bow to a pro shop and ask them to take a look at it for you.

Your bow could be the root cause of these issues and in may cases, it’s a simple fix.

Other Possible Basic Problems 

  • Incorrect yardage 
  • Choosing the wrong pin for your yardage  
  • Loose pins and sights between adjustments 
  • Unmatched arrows or varied arrow weight
  • Damaged arrow fletching
  • Foreign objects on the arrow   
  • Not enough practice 

Never, Ever Shoot a Damaged Arrow

Carbon arrows can easily acquire hairline fractures and these fractures can end up shattering when the arrow is fired. 

For safety’s sake, it’s a great idea to ‘flex test’ your arrows after each shot. Especially if you didn’t actually hit the target. You can achieve this by grabbing each end of the arrow, bring it up to your ear and bend it.

If you hear any unusual noise it should be checked out further and, pending the result, possibly discarded.